Friday, June 13, 2008

GOP Claims China Drilling Off Cuban Shores; Actually, That's False

Jonathan Stein, Mother Jones Blog: To gin up support for off-shore drilling, the Right has an ace up its rhetorical sleeve: the Chinese in Cuba. Here's Vice President Cheney.
"[O]il is being drilled right now 60 miles off the coast of Florida. We're not doing it. The Chinese are in cooperation with the Cuban government... Even the communists have figured out that a good answer to high prices is more supply. Yet Congress has said... no to drilling off Florida.''
"Even the communists" is a nice flourish. Mix the red scare with the yellow scare and get Uncle Dick's own Orange Scare. Guaranteed to freak out Americans concerned about their energy security. Here's House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), piling on:
"Even China recognizes that oil and natural gas is readily available off our shores; thanks to Fidel Castro, they’ve been given a permit to drill for oil 45 miles from the Florida Keys."
Adds House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), "Right at this moment, some 60 miles or less off the coast of Key West, Florida, China has the green light to drill for oil in order to lower energy costs in that country."
Problem is, that's all false. Like, completely false. China is not currently drilling off the shores of Cuba; in fact, it doesn't even have a off shore drilling contract. What is does have is a permit to drill on Cuban land. "China is not drilling in Cuba's Gulf of Mexico waters, period,'' Jorge Piñon, an energy expert at the University of Miami's Center for Hemispheric Policy, told the Miami Herald. In fact, it is not yet drilling on Cuban land, either. The Herald added:
China's Sinopec oil company does have an agreement with the Cuban government to develop onshore resources west of Havana, Piñon said. The Chinese have done some seismic testing, he said, but no drilling. Western diplomats in Havana told McClatchy that to the best of their knowledge there is no Chinese drilling offshore.
The Congressional Research Service also debunks Republican claims:
"While there has been some concern about China’s potential involvement in offshore deepwater oil projects, to date its involvement in Cuba's oil sector has been focused on onshore oil extraction in Pinar del Rio province through its state-run China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation. (Sinopec)"
In a Democratic-controlled Congress, off shore drilling is not going to expand any time soon. But the war against dishonest bombast never stops.
UPDATE: Cheney Acknowledges He Lied About China Drilling ‘60 Miles Off The Coast Of Florida’. After his claim was thoroughly debunked in the press, Cheney acknowledged that he had, in fact, lied in his speech, though his statement today offered no apology and issued only a half-hearted backtrack of his original claim:
It is our understanding that, although Cuba has leased out exploration blocks 60 miles off the coast of southern Florida, which is closer than American firms are allowed to operate in that area, no Chinese firm is drilling there.
Cheney’s comments were so egregiously false that a member of his own party took to the Senate floor to correct the record. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) decried claims of “some fabricated Cuba/China connection,” saying they have “no merit.”
Peddling stories of false connections that have no merit is hardly a new practice for Cheney. But being called out by his own party — and having to admit error — is certainly an uncommon occurence for him.

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